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Steelie Neelie: Crack down on wicked ISPs so we can Skype

'You don't buy a carton of milk and only get 25 megs', snarls Brussels network czar

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Brussels' vice president Neelie Kroes hopes to stop European ISPs from supposedly being anti-competitive by blocking or throttling rival services.

The commissioner, whose brief includes the digital agenda in the EU, lobbied the European Parliament today with her "net neutrality" proposals.

Kroes claimed that "many Europeans" were failing to get "the speeds or quality they paid for" from their ISPs.

"The telecoms single market is far from complete - and a failure to take coordinated action on net neutrality would shatter the fragile construction. If we don't address net neutrality, wider problems will arise and tomorrow's innovative services might have to stop at the border," she told MEPs today.

Among other things, Kroes said that the infrastructure should be in place to allow for innovation and added that telcos should guarantee the right quality for its customers - even where they are using their connections to access rival services. She said:

Services like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or messaging services - like Skype or WhatsApp - offer real innovation for consumers. But some ISPs deliberately degrade those services, or block them outright, simply to avoid the competition.

Kroes also called on telecoms outfits to be more transparent about their consumer contracts by providing realistic speed promises. Here's another soundbite from the unelected commissioner:

We all deserve a clear promise before signing up – not a nasty surprise after. After all, when you buy a carton of milk, you don't expect it to be half-empty: the same goes for 50 Megabit internet.

She added that she wanted to make it easier for European netizens to switch ISPs without facing "countless obstructions" such as excessive charges from existing providers.

Kroes' plans will be tabled in the next few months. ®

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